Love. There is probably no other topic that has been spoken about more through articles, books, novels, sonnets, songs, and visual art. With a plethora of definitions and interpretations, it’s hard to know what to make of love and marriage.
Helpful Bible Verses about Love and Marriage
Christians are not lost at sea on this subject, although the Bible does give guidelines and direction about what love is, and it shares some thoughts on that age-old, yet still relevant institution called marriage.
What is love?
The question, “What is love?” would probably top the list of FAQs of all time. The Bible turns this question on its head in several ways. One way it subverts our expectations is to instead ask “Who is love?”. The answer we get is that God is the very definition and source of all love. “God is love”, says one of Jesus’ followers repeatedly in a letter to other Christians.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” he says in 1 John 4:8. If you want to know what love is, you need to look at God; then you’ll know. God’s nature, actions, thoughts, and impulses are rooted in, emerge from and erupt in spontaneous acts of love, so much so that to see God in action is to see love personified.
Love shows itself in what it does. “It is patient and kind… does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude… irritable or resentful… does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). To show us what love looks like, and to demonstrate this love, God gave us His Son to die for us.
Another of Jesus’ followers, Paul, put it this way – “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
It is this type of love, the sort of love that shows up for the other, even to the point of laying down your life, that husbands are told to exemplify toward their wives. In another of his letters to Christians in Ephesus, Paul writes “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). That’s a pretty high bar.
Marriage is a union
The love between a husband and wife ought to be one of the hallmarks of the marriage relationship. The profound mystery of marriage is that it is a union of two people becoming, somehow, one flesh. In the beginning, before our world was a mess, marriage existed, and it was described in this way: “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Marriage brings together two individuals who leave their families and cleave to one another, forming a new union. For clarity, in talking about leaving one’s family, it’s not talking about cutting emotional and physical ties, but the act of setting up your own family unit.
This union, we are told, is a profound mystery because it isn’t just talking about our human relationships. Again, from Paul – “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Human marriage is somehow an echo of the relationship Jesus has with his people. Jesus is united with his people, died for his people, and in many places in the Bible, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ.” This is, indeed, a profound mystery.
The marriage bed
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). One facet of being married is spouses having sex with each other. This is a beautiful act of celebrating the marriage union by spouses sharing themselves with their partner.
“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time”, as one Biblical author wrote (1 Corinthians 7:5). The positive side of this is for spouses to enjoy one another sexually. The flip side of that is to preserve your marriage. Don’t defile the marriage bed by inviting others into it, via adultery or other means.
Forgiveness and kindness
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). If you ask couples that have been married for any length of time, you’ll find that being kind and considerate to one another, and forgiving each other is something to be practiced often, possibly even multiple times a day. We’re not living in the Genesis 1 or 2 moment, when all was right with the world, but in the Genesis 3 moment, sin is a present reality we must contend with every day.
Being considerate and tenderhearted challenges us to look beyond ourselves and to think of the other person’s thoughts and feelings. When two sinful people live side by side all the time, it’s certain that things will go wrong – the wrong thing will be said, done or implied; feelings will be hurt, and expectations disappointed.
There is a need for forgiving each other. It’s also quite challenging that we are to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us. Consider for a moment how much we offend God with our sin every day. God forgives us, wiping the slate clean and not treating us as our sins deserve. This is remarkable, and quite daunting if we were planning to do this in our own strength.
Rejoicing through the years
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe… be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). Most relationships, like people, go through seasons. There are seasons of hardship, joy, youthful zeal and so much more.
If and when kids come into the picture, that changes the dynamic of your relationship by introducing new stresses and strains into the marriage (with new joys too, of course!). As we grow older, changes inevitably come, especially to our bodies, but also to our priorities. Hot bods become mom bods and dad bods, our interests shift, and we mature into different people.
There is a need to keep drinking from one another’s fountain, to remain intoxicated with one another through the seasons. It won’t always look the same, but at bottom, we’re talking about a consistent and persistent love that grows as you grow. Date night is one powerful tool in your arsenal to help you continue rejoicing in each other.
As we speak about the beautiful symphony of marriage, there is the harsh and somber note of divorce, something many of us are familiar with from our parents, relatives or friends who have gone through it. When the union of marriage goes bad, the all-too-common reality of divorce looms large.
There are many complicated reasons why marriages fail, and why couples contemplate divorce. If marriage is a leaving and cleaving to one another, divorce separates what has been joined together and sunders the union. This is usually very painful, not only for the parties involved but for their children and extended family.
One startling way in which God addresses the reality and pain of divorce is by saying, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. For the man who hates and divorces, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Malachi 2:15-16).
Marriage is a beautiful union of two people coming together to form their own family. It is an echo of the relationship between Jesus and his church, which is itself a profound mystery. This lends gravitas to the institution of marriage; it is not simply a human thing we invented, but a meaningful and significant relationship inscribed in deeper realities.
In marriage, two sinful people join together to do life together. They need to show grace, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness toward one another, and to rejoice in each other as they go through life.
If you and your spouse are going through a rough patch, or if you’re thinking to simply refresh your marriage, consider speaking with a Christian counselor who will guide you in thinking about marriage from the Bible, and developing skills for conflict resolution and communication toward a flourishing relationship.
“In Comfortable Silence,” Courtesy of Vladimir Postovit, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Romance,” Courtesy of Sasint, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Together,” courtesy of William Stitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Enchanted,” Courtesy of Annette Sousa, Unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License